Real Talk About Race: Brown Like Me
The following was originally published in The Tablet, the School of Divinity’s bi-monthly student published informative, community-building vehicle.
I know what you must be thinking. When The Tablet staff sat down to brainstorm topics for upcoming issues and decided to include an article on race, someone must have said, “Let’s have a white guy write it.” This idea was most likely followed by an awkward silence while they tried to decide whether this was a joke or not. Believe me, I get it.
Americans are typically very proud of the things we’ve created–rock and roll, baseball, apple pie, and within 20 years or so, we will also be the creators of universal health care. Something else that should be included on this list is race, not ethnicity, but the political and social construction of race.
Since my wife, who is black, and I became friends in 1996 we have had multiple conversations about race. These conversations continued when we started dating in 2001 and then there were more conversations when we got married in 2002. However in 2007, these conversations took on a new dynamic when our first child was born.
Obviously, society would have plenty of commentary on the race of our multi-ethnic child, but what would we say about her race, and most importantly what would we teach her about race. My personal feeling is, it drives me straight bananas when multi-ethnic people are described as “mixed” as though they are a concoction of people created in a laboratory somewhere. My children where made the same way other children are made (but that’s another story). To this point, as it relates to our family, we teach our children that they are 100% ‘brown’ like your mom and 100% ‘brown’ like your dad and thus 100% brown like ‘you.’ They are not bound to the historical context of race, but rather the identity in which God has created them. To this point, thank you America for finally adding “Multi-Ethnic” to your census thus reducing the amount of people who are otherwise forced to check “other.”
In my experience I have learned a few lessons (mostly the hard way) that in closing I’d love to share with you.
- Don’t pre-determine ideas about a person based on what you perceive their ‘race’ to be (you will be wrong more than you will be right).
- Be comfortable in your skin.
- Be sensitive but not afraid of your family members’ perceptions about race and ethnicity. At the same time be bold enough to educate them in Love.
- Don’t use the “n-word” no matter who you are or where you are (it’s never as cool as you think).
Despite what may be a popular opinion, our nation, the creators of race, is actually headed in a very positive direction in term of its multi-ethnic identity. It is a journey in which there is no absolute destination because people are involved, always involved.